Friends of the Columbia Gorge will host an Earth Day weekend boot brush kickoff event at the Mosier Plateau Trail. (Photo credit: Nickie Bournias)
Friends of the Columbia Gorge will educate volunteers about efforts to control noxious weeds that disrupt the native ecology. (Photo credit: Friends of the Columbia Gorge)
Help spruce up Starvation Creek Falls, the newly completed section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. (Photo credit: Dennis Frates)

As hiking enthusiasts know, spring wildflowers make this season special at the Gorge. What visitors may not realize is that these wildflowers flourish each year in part thanks to strategic efforts to control noxious weeds, which disrupt the native ecology.

As early as mid-March 2017 and in recent years, purple grass widow and yellow and white whitlow grass were blooming — but for a short window only, making April and May the best time to visit.

“It’s quite ephemeral,” says Sara Woods, stewardship coordinator for Friends of Columbia Gorge Land Trust. “It goes from nothing to everything, then goes away really quick.”

Yet the problem, she explains, is that weeds outcompete native species. For example, the yellow star thistle is one non-native that’s spread throughout the Gorge because it has not been contained. It comes up each spring, flowers and “shoots a deep taproot into the soil that has access to more water for longer, which allows the plants to grow larger, have more flowers and put out seed from late spring to early winter,” Woods says.

That results in a monoculture — a one-species landscape — that lowers the biodiversity and invites problems like wildfires, as is the case with spring cheatgrass — a tall, dead, dry invasive species.

To help educate visitors learn about the land and how to care for it, the Friends of Columbia Gorge Land Trust will host an Earth Day weekend (April 22-23, 2017) boot brush kickoff event at the Mosier Plateau Trail, one of the 25 trailheads in the Gorge with a boot brush station.

It’s one of several spring stewardship opportunities planned for the Gorge region and around the state. Just another way to help us all keep Oregon beautiful.

about author Jen Anderson

Jen Anderson writes and edits Travel Oregon's e-newsletters and other online content. She loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two young boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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